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Correlating high‐resolution magic angle spinning NMR spectroscopy and gene analysis in osteoarthritic cartilage

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Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common multifactorial and heterogeneous degenerative joint disease, and biochemical changes in cartilage matrix occur during the early stages of OA before morphological changes occur. Thus, it is desired to measure regional biochemical changes in the joint. High-resolution magic angle spinning (HRMAS) NMR spectroscopy is a powerful method of observing cartilaginous biochemical changes ex vivo, including the concentrations of alanine and N-acetyl, which are markers of collagen and total proteoglycan content, respectively. Previous studies have observed significant changes in chondrocyte metabolism of OA cartilage via the altered gene expression profiles of ACAN, COL2A1 and MMP13, which encode aggrecan, type II collagen and matrix metalloproteinase 13 (a protein crucial in the degradation of type II collagen), respectively. Employing HRMAS, this study aimed to elucidate potential relationships between N-acetyl and/or alanine and ACAN, COL2A1 and/or MMP13 expression profiles in OA cartilage. Thirty samples from the condyles of five subjects undergoing total knee arthroplasty to treat OA were collected. HRMAS spectra were obtained at 11.7 T for each sample. RNA was subsequently extracted to determine gene expression profiles. A significant negative correlation between N-acetyl metabolite and ACAN gene expression levels was observed; this provides further evidence of N-acetyl as a biomarker of cartilage degeneration. The alanine doublet was distinguished in the spectra of 15 of the 30 specimens of this study. Alanine can only be detected with HRMAS NMR spectroscopy when the collagen framework has been degraded such that alanine is sufficiently mobile to form a distinguished peak in the spectrum. Thus, HRMAS NMR spectroscopy may provide unique localized measurements of collagenous degeneration in OA cartilage. The identification of imaging markers that could provide a link between OA pathology and chondrocyte metabolism will facilitate the development of more sensitive diagnostic techniques and will improve methods of monitoring treatment for patients suffering from OA.

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